Lindsay Cirks, a graduating MA International Business student in 2018, gave a rousing and incredibly inspiring speech at the first of the Regent's graduation ceremonies, looking back on her individual journey, and enlightening her fellow graduands on the life lessons she'd learned along the way.
"It is an absolute honour to have this opportunity to speak to you today. As with my dissertation topic, it took me quite a lot of time to decide what I wanted to focus on. In particular, today, on what I wanted to address the crowd around.
"Given the objective of academic exercises to learn, I thought it would be fitting to discuss what I’ve learned over the last 16 months. I could go on all day about how it took John an entire term in our private equity class to teach us what in the world R is, or how Ash taught me there’s a reason I went into accounting instead marketing, as I’ve not one creative bone in my body and should stick to creating spreadsheets. Asif taught me how to do a PESTEL analysis in my sleep. Mikko and Michael and the research methods team taught me how to perform – and survive – primary research, and Alan opened my eyes to global economies in a way I could never have learned from what the Financial Times or Economist or CNN or BBC. As we know, the learnings of life are not one dimensional and they do not come from one source.
"My journey at Regent’s began seven years ago when I was a single mother studying to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, working two jobs and relying very heavily on my family for support. My family who travelled over 4000 miles to support me today, too.
"I’ve made a number of mistakes in my life and at the time, made a decision to do whatever I could to turn things around – not only for me, but for my young daughter. I left my comfortable mid-west Iowa town in the US to come to London for an international accounting summer programme. That experience changed my life. I fell in love with the world outside of North America and knew I had to come back.
"Fast forward five years, which was July 2016. I’d been working for a few years in accounting and eventually doing professional services for a software company, I was married (still am married!), sitting in my office back in the same mid-west Iowa town in the US on a Sunday after working 70 hours that week already.
"I remember, sitting back in my chair, feeling miserable and unhappy and unfilled, and uncertain about what kind of role model I had truly become for my daughter. I asked myself, how did I get here?
"It was that moment I realised I had two options; 1) do what the majority of people I knew did when they felt unhappy about their job and lack of international experiences, which was nothing – other than feel unhappy and complain, or 2) I could do something to change it.
"My journey in particular was quite difficult, from the moment I told my family about my idea to come back to London to begin a life transformation, to which they all thought I was completely mad, to the fact that I ended up being here on my own away from my husband and daughter and support system.
"At times I wanted to quit. In fact, I tried to quit. But, with the support of the University, my family 4000 miles away, my new London family of friends from Moscow to Jerusalem to the Netherlands to India, and my drive to give my daughter and husband a better and global life helped push me through. And here I am. Here we all are.
"Whilst our reasons for coming to Regent’s are all very different, one of the reasons we all selected this particular school was its diversity. And that diversity is what makes the world go around. People interacting and collaborating and learning, disagreeing and challenging one and other, and enjoying life together – from all walks of life. From different countries, religions, socioeconomic levels and political beliefs.
"Congratulations to all of you for contributing to such an important measure. With that I want to leave you with a few thoughts on how you can continue to contribute to this ever changing and diverse world; be true to yourself, and accept and love others who are true to themselves. Even if you do not agree with what that trueness looks like, we do not need more conformity in the world, we need more uniqueness and kindness.
Challenge yourself – to the point you feel actual pain and discomfort. So extreme that you feel like you might not survive it. Trust me, you will survive, and you will grow immensely from the experience.
"Forgive yourself, every day. You are a human, and every human surrounding you is a human too. No matter how perfect or intimidating or judgemental they seem to be.
"Figure out what your weaknesses are, and turn them into strengths by not letting them control you. Accept some of them, and resolve some of them.
"Finally, challenge the status quo. If you do not challenge the status quo, nothing will change. To the Regent’s University London graduates of 2018, remember – you only have one life. Take control of it."